Tag: build strength

Strengthen your GLUTES!

When you think about the best exercises to strengthen your glutes, squats, lunges, and step ups may come to mind. But all of these exercises can get a little boring, and some of them are not recommended for folks with knee injuries. Luckily, there is an exercise that you can do with minimal equipment that isolates your glutes and hip abductors that delivers greater returns on your gym time than squats, lunges, and step ups combined. This exercise is the X-Band Walk.

To complete the X-Band Walk:
For equipment, all you need is a resistance band. Stand with your feet shoulder width apart stepping on the resistance band. Cross the band (make an “X” with the band) at the knee joint and hold the band in each hand with your elbows bent to 90 degrees. Keep your knees slightly bent. Step out to the right for 10 reps, then step backwards for 10 reps, then to the left for 10, then forward for 10. Always face forward, so that you step in a box formation and return to your starting point.

How does the X-Band Walk benefit your back side?
Unlike other more popular glute exercises, the X-Band Walk isolates the gluteus maximus, gluteus minimus, and gluteus medius. Although most of us are familiar with the gluteus maximus muscles (they form what we call our “butt”) the gluteus minimus and gluteus medius play a key role in the stability and power that we generate from our back sides.

Summer Goals! Are You Ready to Take Your Fitness to the Next Level?

So you made all these great goals months ago. When was the last time you really checking in with yourself and made yourself accountable for the goals you have set? Are you on track, are you accomplishing the small goals you set for yourself to reach the bigger one? It’s time to stand back and reassess. Remember what you were like 5 months ago when you set these goals for yourself…

“This is my year, I really want to change my life and live better. I am so motivated right now; I know I can do this. I’ve set a plan; I have step by step directions for myself, a sure plan. I’ve involved my wife and my best friend at work, they know what my goals are and they are going to help me stay on track. I’ve given myself adequate time to achieve these things and little successes along the way will really help me get where I want to go. I’m pumped, let’s do this!” Now it’s 5 months later. All those Yoga classes you meant to attend (just one day a week, I can do that) have gone by the way side. You meant to drink 8 glasses of water a day, you were really good about it until March came along and you started traveling for work. Now somehow you only manage 8 glasses once or twice a week. You told yourself that by your 6 month mark you would be down 10lbs. When you set that goal you thought, “10 lbs in 6 months, that’s stupid easy, I should be able to do twice that no problem.” Now the scale shows you are down 4.5 lbs and you only have one more month to get to that -10lbs you told yourself would be no problem. It’s really getting down to crunch time and you are starting to sweat. Part of you thinks, “Who cares, this is stupid, I won’t die if I eat a plate of spaghetti the size of my head, maybe next year….”

Get a grip! So maybe you haven’t been a good as you could have. Maybe your wife tried to get you to go to Yoga with her every week for a month and she got tired of begging and dragging you. Maybe the 5 mile runs turned into weekend walks to breakfast. Maybe that triathlon you signed up for has come and gone and you never even got in a pool to really train let alone in a wetsuit to actually participate. Take a moment, put yourself back in the shoes you wore 5 months ago when you made these goals. You had a great plan, you had all the intentions in the world, you were ready, you were tired of not moving forward. You decided, (YOU, not your wife, not your co-workers, not your dog, YOU) YOU wanted to do this. Re-visit those goals. See how well you were doing, look at how motivated you were, and remember why these things were important to you in the first place. If you really want this, get back on the horse as they say. I say, stop being such a girlie man and do what you’ve set out to do. Don’t give up. It’s not always perfect and sometimes you’ll fail but that just makes success all the more worth while. No time like the now to change your life. If you need to make new goals, make new ones. If you need to tell your favorite barista about your goals, tell her (although don’t be offended if she doesn’t care or thinks your totally weird). Do what you think you have to do to make a better you.

Remember this is your life we are talking about. You can do anything you set your mind to, really, anything. It takes effort, it takes will power, it takes some sweat (and maybe a few tears). But I know you can do this, the time is now!

Strength Training for Women: Dispelling Misconception

Myth 1: Strength training causes women to become larger and heavier.
Actually, strength training helps in decreasing body fat and increasing lean body mass (muscle mass). Many people when trying to lose weight overlook the benefits of strength training for fear of weight gain. Now, there may be a slight increase in body weight initially but the key to losing weight has very little to do with the number on your bathroom scale. “Your weight reflects only the amount of fat, muscle and other substances in your body; if you lose weight you cannot determine what you have lost, fat or muscle.” This is why your metabolic rate (metabolism) is important. Metabolism is the rate at which your body burns calories. This figure is mostly dependent upon your specific body composition, the relative amounts of fat and muscle in your body. Muscle burns more calories than fat! With understanding this concept, if weight loss is your goal you should focus on fat loss and muscle gain. Lowering your overall bodyfat and increasing your lean body mass (muscle) will help you to burn more calories throughout the whole day.

Now, I get a lot of questions regarding size and strength training. “I don’t want to get big.” Women that get big in the weight room already have a genetic predisposition for muscle growth (hypertrophy) and train with high volume, high intensity exercise programs. The best way to increase muscle size is by lifting light weights with more repetitions and to increase strength by lifting heavy weights with low repetitions. Muscle size will usually not increase as much as it will with lighter weights and more repetitions. A general rule is that heavy weights for about five reps or less is better for strength and more reps and lighter weight is better for size. Therefore, an exercise program that varies the intensity from heavier weights, fewer reps (5–8) to lighter weight more reps (12–15) 2 – 3 days per week is just what you need to give your metabolism that boost to help you “loss weight” without “getting big”.

Myth 2: Women should use different exercise programs than men.
It was once thought that using free weights, plyometrics (high velocity, low force) body weight or even manual resistance would cause injury.

In fact, there is no evidence that woman are more likely to be injured during strength training than man. Using proper form and technique when exercising is the key for both men and women in reducing the risk of injury. Following a strength-training program that gradually increases the intensity and load will also help in reducing the risk of injuries.

Myth 3: Women should avoid high-intensity or high-load training.
Strength training programs that most women perform are light weight in nature. Often such programs are below those necessary for physiologic adaptations and are much lower than those used by men.

“Most women are able to train at higher volumes and intensities than previously believed. In fact, women need to train at intensities high enough to cause adaptation in bone, muscle, cartilage, ligaments and tendons.” Thus, training at lower levels will keep physiologic benefits to a minimum and in turn, will keep you from reaching your goals. To get the most benefit from your strength training program, one should, occasionally lift weights at or near repetition maximum for each exercise.

Using the OVERLOAD principle is one way to ensure you get the most out of your strength training routine. There are three ways one can overload: by increasing the weight, the repetitions, and the sets. As discussed earlier, strength is increase more by lifting heavy loads for fewer repetitions than by lifting light loads for higher repetitions. So, if you are now able to lift a given amount of weight 15 times instead of 8 times, you are ready for an overload change. Here we have used both weight and repetitions as the overload. You can also use just repetitions as a way to overload. Trying to increase the reps puts added stress on the muscles. As muscle strength increases the number of reps you can do increase. Be aware that at some point weight will need to be increased as well to ensure proper overloading. Also, by adding a second or third set will allow those muscles to work harder even at the same intensity.

Remember, that lifting weights (strength training) is a great tool for increasing ones strength for overall functioning, preventing osteoporosis, speeding up your metabolism and losing weight. It takes a lot of hard work with varying intensities, rest periods between sets and how much food you consume to “get big” in the weight room. And that bathroom scale isn’t showing you the whole truth.

Improve Your Balance, Stability and Strength with a Bosu Ball

The Bosu ball is an excellent piece of equipment that can be incorporated into any exercise routine. Whether you are an elite level athlete or simply want to increase your balance and stability, the Bosu will help in a wide variety of ways.

As with any balance exercise, make sure that while using the Bosu ball you have something that is anchored to the ground close by. You will be purposely placing your body in unstable situations and you may lose your balance throughout the exercises. Having something close by will make you feel more comfortable and progress more smoothly through the exercises until you develop the needed strength. Remember, safety first.

Bosu stands for Both Sides Up, meaning you can stand or place your hands on either the black side or the blue side. Both sides change the degree of instability in different ways.

When standing on the blue side of the Bosu you recruit more ankle and foot stabilizing muscles since the foot does not have a solid place to make a balance point. This is great for runners who are training on variable of surfaces or people who may be worried about falling or twisting an ankle. By subjecting the foot to the instability of the Bosu you will train it to be prepared to react quickly when placed in a similar situation. This can be anything from hitting a rough spot in the ground, a tree root, or, of course the worst of all, holes. The Bosu will help you train for injury prevention as well as treatment of ankle or knee injuries.

The black side of the Bosu focuses more on the knee to hip complex and less on the ankle (the ankle will still be very much active). Since the black surface is perfectly flat, the ankle no longer has to struggle for stability. However, since the blue side is now touching the ground, the rest of the body must work together to maintain balance.

Exercises to Try:
Single Leg Step-up (blue side first then progress to the black side)
Place the foot directly in the center of the Bosu on the blue side. Let the circles on top of the ball guide you to proper foot placement. Contract the muscles through the leg that is on top of the Bosu and step up bringing the opposite knee up to assist with balance. When you first start, the goal is to get up and touch back down in the same spot. As you get into a rhythm, start holding longer at the top of the movement, testing your balance.

Basic Squat (blue side first then black)
Blue Side Facing Up: Stand on top of the blue side of the Bosu with both feet. You want your feet a little less than shoulder width apart. Find your balance by relaxing your legs and extending your spine up from the crown of your head. Maintain this spine length as you bend at your hips and knees to lower down into a squat.

Black Side Facing Up: While holding on to a secured object place one foot on the black side of the Bosu, fully tilting it to one side. Contract the muscles of that leg as you press yourself up and place the opposite foot on the other side of the Bosu. Your toes should be pointed forward and your feet should be a little wider than hip width apart. Relax the legs and extend the spine up. Maintain this spine length as you bend at your hips and knees to lower down into a squat. Your legs will most likely shake as they struggle to find stability (this is why we stay close to an anchored object) but as you progress in the exercise your muscles will calm down and the shaking will subside.

Overcoming Exercise Plateaus

Are you one of those people who keep doing the same exact workout that you have always done and wonder why you’re not seeing the results you want to see? Well, you’re not alone. I find that most people will stay with the same workout week after week, month after month and even year after year. It’s great that they have such a commitment to their workouts, and they are staying healthier than if they didn’t workout at all, but they could be reaching much better results if they integrated change to their workouts.

To find better results, you need to first ask yourself “what are my goals?” If you don’t have any workout goals you will be lost in the gym – idling at your current level of fitness. Keep your goals simple and SMART. SMART stands for: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Timed. Example: “I want to lose 15 lbs. in 3 months.” The example fits all of the SMART criteria.

Now that you have a goal, write it down and keep it somewhere you’ll see everyday or set a daily reminder on your computer or phone. This way you’ll be reminded of your goal each day and not lose site of where you are heading. From this point, the burden of making your goal a reality is upon your shoulders. If you really want to reach a goal then don’t let anything or anyone stand in your way. Be accountable for your goals.

Second, you need to ask yourself “am I working hard enough to reach my goals or am I just doing what I need to do to get 30 minutes done on the treadmill?” I find most people are doing the latter. If you only put in the same amount of effort every time you workout, you will only find the results to be mediocre at best. If you’re trying to lose 15 lbs. in 3 months, the same mediocre workout isn’t going to work for you. You need to change it up and get serious about elevating your fitness level.

Instead of getting on the EFX at a resistance of 6 and zoning out for the next 20-30 minutes try the rower, or consider the track and the stairs or an interval workout on the EFX. Whatever you choose, the workout should be challenging and out of your comfort zone; but it shouldn’t kill you either – so be aware of the level of intensity you are aiming for. The change is just what your body needs when you have hit a plateau. When you first start working out it’s tough on your body, but in a short time you start to feel better and you start to see results from your hard work. The workout is something new to your body and it’s reacting well. But after a few weeks of the same routine your body is used to the workout and isn’t challenged anymore and the gains you saw earlier are dwindling (except that you are still in good health). Now you need to increase the amount of work you do during your workout – change it up. You can increase the amount of time you spend on the treadmill and/or increase the resistance or speed of the machine you use. It’s time to put a little more effort into your workout.

Interval training is great for getting you outside of your comfort zone. Basically, you have a work interval (30 sec. – 5 min.) followed by a rest interval. The rest interval can be 1-2 minute break to get some water and to catch your breath before you do your next work interval (passive recovery) or just slowing the treadmill down to a walk or slow jog for a 1 – 5 (active recovery). This will be exactly the change your body needs.

The same thing goes in the weight room. Try different lifts (especially if you haven’t done anything new in years), change the number of sets you do, change the number of repetitions you do and/or increase the amount of weight you lift. Your muscles won’t get any stronger if you don’t overload the muscle and challenge them. I know a lot of you are nervous about “getting too big.” Being stronger has nothing to do with getting bigger and it takes a lot of hard work and a high calorie diet for one to really “get big” from weight lifting. Rule of thumb: muscle hypertrophy = 3-8 reps, strength/power = 8-12 reps, and muscular endurance = >12 reps.

Third, if you need some assistance with changing up your workout, try a session with a personal fitness trainer at the club. If you need your car worked on you take it to a mechanic. The same should pattern applies to working on your fitness; trainers have the knowledge and the skills to put you on the right track to reach your goals. Having a trainer set up a workout will make your time in the gym time well spent and get you results quicker and safer.

Again, the changes to your workout will help your body get past your exercise plateau. In order to get stronger and become fit your body needs to be challenged and keep your muscles guessing. If you start to change up your workouts every 4 – 8 weeks you should never reach a plateau and you will reach your goals.

Now that you have the tools you need to overcome your exercise plateau, go out there and get it done. Set your goals. Change up your workout. Put in some hard work and have fun! If you have any question please don’t hesitate to contact me, or any of the other personal fitness trainers, at the club.